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Legal Research Quick Start for Work

This guide is designed for current law students working as law clerks and for recent grads.

Questions to Ask an Assigning Attorney

Legal Research and Analysis 

  • What is the legal issue?
    • It may help to specify related issues that don't need to be researched.
  • What is the jurisdiction?
  • Do you expect there is law on point?
    • If they expect there is law on point in the jurisdiction, do they recommend a particular secondary source for background, or do they want to share with you a particular statute, regulation, or case as a starting point for your research?
    • If they expect there is probably no law on point within the jurisdiction, do they want you to expand the search to other jurisdictions after confirming that, or do they want you to simply confirm what searches you did to determine there is no law on point within the jurisdiction?
  • What is the client-matter number? (for law firms)
    • If there is no client-matter number, is there a nonbillable number to use on Lexis or Westlaw, or do you need to use free resources such as Fastcase, Google Scholar, and your law library?

Planning Your Writing

  • What is the work product?
    • quick email memo, fully cited brief, something in between?
  • Who is the audience?
    • a judge, a lawyer in-house, a client with or without a legal background?
  • When do you need this?
    • If other assignments and due dates may make it hard to meet the deadline, ask the lawyer to help you prioritize.